Room minus the outgoing cabinet does not accept Van Ark’s healthcare bonus dilemma

Outgoing Minister Tamara van Ark for Medical Care. Between Prime Minister Rutte and Minister De Jonge (Public Health), during Thursday’s corona debate.Image ANP, Bart Maat

In a letter to the House of Representatives, Van Ark (Medical Care) presented the House with a dilemma. In the budget on Budget Day in September of last year, it was decided to give the healthcare staff a further bonus of 500 euros per person. At the time, the Chamber approved that decision.

But in the meantime, it turned out that the previous bonus for health care workers had turned out to be much more expensive, as many more health care providers applied for the bonus for their staff than expected. Instead of the budgeted 1.4 billion, the first bonus round cost 3 billion euros.

This made it clear to Van Ark that she will not make it with the 720 million euros budgeted for the second bonus round. According to her, there are two options: either select more strictly on who can receive the bonus, or divide the amount among all applicants. In the latter case, the bonus will be lower, namely around 200 to 240 euros per person. Van Ark left it to the Chamber which of the two it will be.

In the corona debate in the House on Thursday, the proposed dilemma aroused a lot of outrage among the SP, PVV and PvdA, among others. They don’t want to make that choice at all. However, according to Van Ark, the choice is inevitable, because the cabinet cannot adjust the budget for the bonus due to its caretaker state.

But the House, minus the outgoing cabinet, will not leave it at that. Thirteen political groups jointly submitted a motion requesting the government “to maintain the level of the care bonus at EUR 500 per person and to deploy additional financial resources if it appears that the intended budget is insufficient.” Van Ark advised against the motion. According to her, implementing the motion will cost 765 million euros extra.

The motion has yet to be put to a vote, but is unlikely to win a majority. VVD member Sophie Hermans said she wanted to use the available budget as best as possible, CU leader Segers, like Van Ark, expressed a preference for sharing the care bonus with all care providers. D66 and CDA are still holding the cards to their chest.

That does not have to be the end of the story. Parliamentary parties can hand in an amendment to adjust the budget in such a way that the 500 euros in health care bonuses can be maintained.

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